Smoky And Sweet

Family business offers flavors of the Adirondack Coast.

(DoNorth/Kody Mashtare)

Shane Dutil pulls in to D&D Meats in West Chazy just before 6 a.m. He fills the dehydrators with jerky, loads lengths of sausage onto the smoker racks and heads to his computer in the office, where his father, Adrien Dutil, sits at a desk behind him. Most nights, Shane doesn’t head home until about 9.

“You never have any time to relax,” he says of his sometimes 15-hour days.

The Dutils have always been busy.

In 1971, after Adrien’s “two years, six months, 10 days and four hours” in the Army — including a deployment to Vietnam — he went to work in the meat-packing industry. But he always dreamed of opening his own store.

During lunch hours at O’Neill Packing, Adrien gathered chicken hearts, livers and gizzards that the company otherwise would have thrown out and sold them to locals for 50 cents per pound. He also sliced other meats he bought in bulk that he and his wife, Sharon Dutil, would stay up late packaging for sale.

“We probably slept three hours a night,” Sharon says.

In 1981, after shopping around, Adrien and Sharon finally found a spot to open their own butcher shop and country store, D&D Meats.

The store on Route 22, about 9 miles south of the Canadian border, has evolved into a sprawling, multi-faceted business, home to Jeezum Crow Smokehouse and Tappin’ N Sappin’ Sugarworks.

Today, visitors are greeted by the gaze of stuffed wildlife — including an imposing full-size black bear and a stately coyote — that adorn the walls in rich furs under D&D’s cedar-lined ceiling. House-made meats fill the coolers. Beef jerkys and maple syrup line the shelves.

But it wasn’t until about 2010 when Shane came to work full time at D&D that the business began to grow beyond a general store and butcher shop. Before that, Shane worked in research and development at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, which operated a facility in Rouses Point, New York. Making jerky was only a hobby.

During the late 2000s, Wyeth enacted massive rounds of layoffs, and eventually he found himself on the receiving end.

In September 2010, as he was laid off, an electrical fire scorched the back side of D&D, leaving the rear of the building exposed to the outdoors. Smoke damage ravaged the rest of the building. They lost “more than the insurance would cover,” Sharon says. “We paid it off three months before.” But they swept away the ashes and rebuilt even stronger. It was soon after the fire that Shane decided to focus his efforts solely on D&D. He began to integrate his jerky into the business.

About six years ago, Adrien and Shane bought several dehydrators and a small smoker. They began to craft smoked snack sticks, summer sausage and hot dogs in addition to jerky, which they now offer in seven flavors such as Tex-Mex, Mildy Maple and Spicy Teriyaki.

Jeezum Crow Smokehouse at D&D Meats started to take shape.

“I knew a lot of people were traveling to get certain products made, and I thought because we’re in the meat industry, It made sense to try to make some stuff ourselves,” Shane says.

Local hunters and farmers who raise livestock make up a large chunk of the Dutil’s custom-butchering, processing and smoking business. But with limited equipment, Shane and Adrien soon found themselves over their heads in orders, unable to keep up.

“We just couldn’t do it anymore,” Shane says. “Our waiting list was too big. Our turnaround was too slow. We were working a lot more hours.”

So last fall, they dropped about $80,000 on a shiny, fully automated stainless-steel smoker imported from Germany — the “brain” of the business, Shane says, which burns a special beechwood sawdust.

Shane swings open the smoker’s front door and reaches in to feel the venison sticks hanging in rows.

“I make adjustments on the fly, and make sure the air is circulating,” he says.

Shane and Adrien also bought a new emulsifier, the “workhorse” of the operation, which they use to make Jeezum Crow snack sticks, hot dogs, kielbasa and other types of sausage.  

“It used to take us a week to 10 days to do what we can do in one day now,” Adrien says.

They have sent cases of Jeezum Crow jerky and snack sticks to U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and received a slew of appreciation letters.

Shane has expanded the product line to include an array of cuts and flavors of smoked meats and poultry such as salami, brisket and chicken. Jeezum Crow also offers house-smoked cheeses. Smoked, aged sharp cheddar is a customer favorite.

Shane cold smokes the aged sharp cheddar, maple-bacon cheddar, gouda and other New York or Vermont-sourced cheeses. He fires up the beechwood-fueled behemoth and lets the smoke spiral in, filling the inside compartment. He loads in the cheese, which absorbs flavors from the swirling wood smoke for two hours without heat.

After smoking, meats and cheeses go to the “cooked cooler,” Shane says, pulling on the cooler’s door handle. Inside, blue and green order totes sit in stacks with name tags slapped along their sides.

During peak season, October through March, “You can’t even walk through here,” he says. “It’s stacked to the ceiling.”

The business shot off in another direction shortly after Shane and Adrien started Jeezum Crow Smokehouse at D&D.

“Because we use so much maple in our meats, it made sense to tap trees on our own land,” Shane says.

He now maintains 1,100 maple taps between two locations in West Chazy, including some in the woods behind D&D. He brings the sap to the Parker Family Maple Farm, just six miles south of the store, where a wood pellet-fed boiler cooks off the excess water, leaving behind sugary syrup.

“I team up with the Parker family,” Shane says. “I always laugh when they ask whose syrup is better. I say it’s pretty comparable.”

Every year, wild spring weather brings even more work for Shane. When temperatures climb above freezing during the day and plummet to frigid lows overnight, maple sap flows. He keeps an eye on the weather and sometimes pulls himself out of bed in the middle of the night to turn on the vacuum system hooked to his taps.

“I go out there at 1 a.m. to turn pumps on,” he says. “I make a lot of sap for my small operation.”

He sells Tappin’ N Sappin’ maple syrup in gallon, half gallon, quart and pint sizes. A gallon costs $42.

Erin Streiff, Shane’s fiancé, helps produce the popular Tappin’ N Sappin’ maple candies, raspberry and cinnamon maple creams, maple mustard, barbecue sauce and vinaigrette.

About six Kinney Drugs locations throughout Clinton County now stock Tappin’ N Sappin’ syrup and other products, including those on Boynton and U.S. Avenues in Plattsburgh and Gorman Way in Peru.

Issue 11: Summer/Fall 2018

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